Do you know that Dijon mustard was once made using verjus, the acidic unfermented green juice from unripe grapes? (That is, besides the key ingredient: mustard seeds.) Then it was subsequently and permanently substituted with white wine when wine became more readily available. I like using white wine to deglaze. White wine sauce is a different matter. I find it to be overpowering and sometimes bitter for my palate, unless most of the alcohol is evaporated. But that won’t define a white wine sauce, will it?
The idea of comparing the sauces, using verjus in one and white wine in the other is intriguing to me. I’ve been attempting to find a non-alcoholic, milder and less acidic alternative to the white wine sauce. (I am not a wine drinker.) I want to find out which one wins out in a side-by-side comparison, in terms of flavor.
The mussels with white wine mustard sauce recipe comes from Ellie Kreiger, a nutritionist and cook book writer and the IHCC’s featured chef for the next six months. I appreciate and practice her health-conscious approach to food. Her recipes, like this one, are very simple, pared down and no thrill, the way to prepare certain food at times.
I split the recipe into two separate pots. First, sweat the aromatics in a heavy saucepan with olive oil, add liquid to deglaze. One using verjus, the other with white wine. Add in the mussels as the liquid comes back to a boil. Let them simmer with the lid on. Mussels are ready in about three minutes when their shelves open up. One teaspoon, each, of Dijon mustard and butter is whisked in to finish the sauce.
The verjus sauce gets the thumbs up. It’s complex, more nuanced and vibrant. Unexamined sauce, like an unexamined life, tends to be lackluster. The verjus sauce is anything but. You taste it and taste it again. You do a double take. You can’t exactly pinpoint what it is. It does not have the common flavor we are accustomed to. It defies description; perhaps it’s the so called “umami,” distinct from any other flavors!
|The verjus sauce adds a distinct and vibrant flavor|